GS Paper 3
Source: Indian Express
Context: After the military junta took control of Myanmar, the state-owned company, which had exclusive rights over the country’s precious timber and teak trade, also came under the military.
- There was a number of timber auctions since the coup and sales of this “conflict” wood, pro-democracy supporters allege, are a key revenue stream for the military regime.
Importance of Myanmar teak:
- Teak from Myanmar’s deciduous and evergreen forests is considered the most tensile and durable hardwood, resistant to water and termites.
- It is in demand for high-end furniture, veneer and ship decking – much sought-after by the luxury yacht industry.
Illegal harvesting of timber and teak from Myanmar:
- There have been increased instances of illegal trade of Myanmar timber; Global Forest Watch says the country, over the last two decades, has lost forest cover roughly the size of Switzerland.
- International NGO Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released data, which showed that over 70% of the logs exported from Myanmar between 2000-2013, were illegally harvested.
Global regulations to tackle illegal trade:
- The European Union introduced the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which put the onus on timber merchants to do sufficient due diligence to disallow illegal timber from entering their markets.
- Myanmar itself banned the export of whole logs.
Impact on Indian Traders:
- Following the ban on the export of whole logs, a new regulation came in for only teak in “sizes” to be exported.
- India is looked upon as a leakage country for illegally exporting timber.
- Claiming that the price for the timber was paid before the 2021 coup.
- Trade data reveals some Indian companies simply put “Asia” in the column for the origin of the wood, without specifying which country
- In transit passes they signed, traders wrote “imported” in the space for declaring where the teak was purchased from.
- Strengthen enforcement of existing laws
- Increase transparency in the supply chain
- Enhance international cooperation
- Address the demand side of the problem: Illegal logging persists because there is a market for illegal timber.
- Tighten regulations on Indian traders: India needs to strengthen its regulations on the import of timber and crack down on companies that are involved in illegal trade.